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Think it’s too late to reverse global boiling? These Boise students have news for you

Th City of Boise welcomes new studentsto its Youth Climate Action Council each school year.
City of Boise, Youth Climate Action Council
Th City of Boise welcomes new studentsto its Youth Climate Action Council each school year.

As yet another heat advisory blankets the region, ushering in some of the hottest temperatures of the season, a team of climate action activists (they’re also Boise high school students) say it’s not too late to turn back the tide.

“Every little thing is important, and every little thing can contribute to combating climate change. And we've seen the warning signs and we need to act on them as a community because they add up eventually,” said Rylee Chung, co-chair of the City of Boise Youth Climate Action Council.“And if we can all put in a little bit of work, we'll see it.”

“Not everything is unicorns and rainbows … and that everything's okay,” said Isabelle Reis, Chung’s fellow co-chair. “But you are taking action instead of being helpless.”

On what promises to be one of the hottest days of the year, Chung and Reis visit with Morning Edition host George Prentice.

The New York Times profiled the City of Boise Youth Climate Action Council in January 2023
The New York Times courtesy The City of Boise
The New York Times profiled the City of Boise Youth Climate Action Council in January 2023

Read the full transcript below:

GEORGE PRENTICE: It's Morning Edition. Good morning. I'm George Prentice. Headline: Record Heat Hasn't Relented. Headline: July Delivers All-time Record Heat to the Planet. Headline: Wildfires in the Interior, Drought Elsewhere, As Record Heat Drags into August… and it keeps on coming. And this week's temperatures in the Treasure Valley are at triple-digits. So, we welcome a conversation with two members of the City of Boise's Youth Climate Action Council. We welcome to this broadcast Isabelle Reis and Rylee Chung, co-chairs of the council. Good morning to you both.

RYLEE CHUNG: Good morning.

ISABELLE REIS: Good morning.

PRENTICE: Isabelle. Up first, I'm going to ask you tell me about you. You're a student. Where and what year?

REIS: My name is Isabelle Reis. I am 17 and I am a senior at Timberline High. .

CHUNG: My name is Rylee. I am going to be a senior as well. I attend Centennial High School.

PRENTICE: I'd be curious to hear about the lens that each of you is looking through this summer when you see the world baking.

REIS: I think that these headlines of record-breaking heat and record-breaking fires are kind of repetitive. It doesn't really do me out because we've seen this before. In 2018 and in 2021, we had our hottest Julys then and we're having it again. But I think that the summer is equally historic in warning signs that have been beeping at us for some time now, but also historic in action in people who have heard these warning signs, who understood them and are willing to do something about it.

CHUNG: I would agree with that. I mean, this summer is not only record-breaking because like we said, it is repetitive, but also, we've come up with new terms such as global boiling. We understand the temperatures are rising, yet now people are taking a stance of saying, okay, here's an actual definition for it. It's global boiling like our world is, is changing and we need to adapt with it as well in a positive light. I mean, we have heat waves. The temperatures here are insane. We have news reports of flooding, of glacier melting. And we've heard all of these in the past years, but no one has taken action. And so especially this summer, we're igniting change to take action. And that's what we also do in this council, is find those who want to take action and who are looking at the warning signs and saying, okay, this is not okay. And so I think this summer has really hit our point where there's just no return and everyone is at at a place where we need to enact some change. And I think people are taking a stance.

PRENTICE: So, Rylee, expand on that just a little bit. What do you say to someone … and I hear it way too often among my peers, folks that say, “Hey, it's too late. Why do we even talk about small measures when it's just too late to turn this around?”

CHUNG: If someone tells me that I don't think it's too late, I think we convince ourselves it's too late because we think things are too difficult. We think it's too hard for one person, one group to change the heat in the ocean, to change heat waves, to change flooding, glacier melting. But in reality, there are little things that we as a group, as an individual, as communities can do, such as the Youth Climate Action Council. To me, every little thing is important, and every little thing can contribute to combating climate change. And we've seen the warning signs and we need to act on them as a community because they add up eventually. And if we can all put in a little bit of work, we'll see it. And I think we've all come to that point this summer.

REIS: I think that when somebody says that it's too late, it's more of an excuse not to do something and to not act instead of, you know, being really helpful in any other way. I believe that with the warning signs that we have heard, it's more so about acknowledging what we're losing, but taking action regardless and knowing where the problem is also how we know where to be efficient with what we do. So I think that, you know, deprivation, this doom and gloom does nothing for our situation. It does nothing to change, fight or adjust to climate change. And I think it's really important that we shift our victim mindset to a positive collaborator mindset and contributor to do things and to act out of joy and care for our ecosystem and for our peers.

PRENTICE: Isabele, what motivates you? What got you to this place?

REIS: So, I think what really forms my interest are my roots. I am Brazilian. I was born in Brazil, and I lived there for nine years. And from every day on the news, you can always hear how your mere existence is really impacting on the ecological diversity that they have and the ecological systems as a whole. And I really brought that awareness with me when I moved to Boise, and I'm really happy to be a part of something in which we are discussing, we are showing and we are acting to do better, to, you know, be better collaborators with our ecological systems.

CHUNG: I was a person who… growing up… I was always being told climate change, this climate change that. And I never really understood what all of this negativity was aimed for. And I always thought, well, why aren't we doing something about it? Why are we sitting in a classroom learning about it? But why aren't we stepping out of the classroom? Why aren't we stepping out of our schools and really doing something? And so, when I got into high school, I had a lot of opportunities to involve myself in government programs, in classes and clubs. And I just realized that, yes, we are young, but we also are the voice of like a next generation. And so the importance behind that is astronomical. And I think that generations before us can see the importance and the value that we bring. And so being able to feel my power of potentially being able to do something and actually have a world and a environment and a climate to live in that is safe, I wanted to take action and hearing about this council, hearing about my peers that are also involved really set me on a spiral to be like, okay, there is something we can do and it's minuscule, but we can actually enact some change.

PRENTICE: So, Rylee, I'm going to guess more than a few parents and or your peers may be listening. Make a pitch…if they want to step up. How do they participate?

CHUNG: It’s honestly incredibly simple and I think we overcomplicate it. I think it comes down to education. It comes down to action. It comes down to speaking with one another about problems in less of a negative light, in more of a positive way, in a way that can really do change, and kind of focusing on how, yes, things are changing, but we can change with it as well and we can change our habits. We can change the way we perceive life, the way we perceive the environment around us. And so the way to take action is by speaking to one another in a positive light rather than a negative light, in my opinion.

REIS: So, our council focuses on two major tasks throughout the year, which is the Youth Climate Summit, which is exactly what Riley kind of talks about. It's more communicating, having people there, a lot of students. We bring students from all over Boise from the Boise School District and West Ada District to have them learn a little bit more about climate change and discuss it with other people, give them that opportunity. But we also have a project. We have several pitches from departments of the city of Boise, and as a group we choose what projects we would like to, you know, expand on, learn about and then take action with. Last year, we reimagined a parking lot and that was super fun, but also really helpful to learn about. You come out from the council with a new hopeful experience for your future. Not necessarily that everything is unicorns and rainbows, that everything's okay, but that you are taking action instead of being helpless. And I think that really the consideration of being a member to the council is a no-brainer. You should definitely apply. It's an opportunity to get to know people that have amazing stories and amazing voices, but also to come together and participate in something that will actually make your life more meaningful, to make you feel better about what you're doing and what you are contributing to the world and to our ecosystem.

PRENTICE: Isabelle Reis and Rylee Chung, co-chairs of the City of Boise's Youth Climate Action Council. And great good luck with the new school year… and thanks for giving me some time this morning.

REIS: Thank you. Of course.

CHUNG: We really appreciate it. Thank you.

Find reporter George Prentice on Twitter @georgepren

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